By Allen Estabillo
KORONADAL CITY, June 29 Local residents here established a new mark on Friday with around 250,000 trees planted in various parts of the city as part of its massive 2nd Tree Growing Festival.
An estimated 20,000 volunteers from various sectors trooped to planting sites along the critical Quezon mountain range here early Friday to join the tree planting festivity, which is presently considered as among the biggest in the country.
Its a huge success. Based on our initial assessment, we have so far planted about 99 percent of the 250,000 tree seedlings that we prepared for todays festival, the mayor told reporters.
Based on data released by the City Environment and Natural Resources Office (CENRO), the total number of volunteers who signed up reached 15,479 as of Thursday night but thousands more showed up for the activity.
The volunteers, who were composed mostly of students as well as private and government workers, initially converged at the city hall grounds and several other identified jump-off sites here at around 4 a.m.
They were then ferried to the tree planting sites situated in five upland villages of the city by trucks and service vehicles commissioned by the local government.
Augustus Bretana, CENRO chief, said the tree planting sites covered 1,200 hectares of lands in 53 upland sitios and puroks of Barangays Cacub, Esperanza, Mabini, San Jose and Topland that straddle the Quezon mountain range.
The mountain range serves as the natural boundary of this city and the neighboring provinces of Sultan Kudarat and Davao del Sur.
He said most of the planting sites were within titled private-owned lands as well as areas that were covered by the governments Integrated Social Forestry program.
We initially encountered minor problems like the non-arrival of the tree seedlings but cited that they were able to resolve them later on. Overall, we were able to achieve our targets, Bretana said.
During the program's launching last year, around 25,000 local volunteers planted a total of 131,028 tree seedlings in 522.78 hectares of idle lands along the Roxas Mountain Range, which extends to six of the citys 27 barangays.
The city government originally targeted to plant 120,000 trees in 500 hectares of land in the area.
The city government decided to launch the tree-growing festival last year to highlight the local celebration of the International Environment Month held every June and support for Aquinos National Greening Program.
It noted that the festivities aimed to promote environmental volunteerism among residents and the rehabilitation of the citys declining forest reserve.
Miguel said the tree-planting activity officially ended at around 12:30 p.m., with the arrival at the city hall grounds of the last contingent coming from one of the remotest planting sites in Purok Randal of Barangay Cacub.
He said five people suffered minor injuries in separate incidents, including freak ones, while the contingents were on their way to the tree planting sites.
He said the victims received proper treatment through the city governments standby medical team.
But overall, this is a great day for the city as we have once again proven that we can stand up as one for the cause of our environment, Miguel said.
As part of the festivities, the city government, which allotted P2 million for the activity, served free lunch to all volunteers at the city hall grounds here.
An environment-themed concert at the Freedom Park grounds here on Friday night will cap the celebrations, for which Malacanang earlier declared a special non-working holiday through Executive Order 409.
But Miguel stressed that this years Tree Growing Festival will be a continuing activity and he has assigned CENRO personnel to start as early as tomorrow (Saturday) the validation of Fridays accomplishment.
We will check if there are seedlings that our volunteers missed of if there are more areas that needed to be planted, he said.
The mayor added that they are eyeing the activity to become a long-term endeavor through an incentive scheme for local farmers who would be assigned to take care of the planted trees. (PNA)